HomeNewsBriefCosta Rica Oil Theft Reaches Record High in 2019
BRIEF

Costa Rica Oil Theft Reaches Record High in 2019

COSTA RICA / 27 NOV 2019 BY CHARLOTTE DIERKES EN

Oil theft cases in Costa have hit record levels in 2019 and increased nearly six fold in the past three years — evidence that the fuel theft racket has grown dramatically in the Central American country.

Figures from the Costa Rican Petroleum Refinery (Refinadora Costarricense de Petróleo – RECOPE) show that more than 14 billion liters of gas has been stolen between October 2016 and July 2019, CRHoy reported.

In October, RECOPE officials said that 279 separate oil theft incidents had been reported in 2019, a jump from 200 cases all of last year. In 2017, 47 cases were tallied, and just three cases were reported in 2016.

Officials at RECOPE estimate losses at almost $13 million during this period.

SEE ALSO: Costa Rica News and Profile

The pipeline between the inland hub of Cartago and the Atlantic port of Limón has been regularly targeted, officials say. Authorities, however, have been unable to pinpoint the time of the attacks or the exact amount of gasoline being stolen. Other sites where thefts have occurred include La Garita, Barranca, Esparza and places along Route 27.

In September, Costa Rica’s Judicial Investigation Agency (Organismo de Investigación Judicial – OIJ) opened an investigation after a large hole was found in a pipeline in Moravia, just north of San José.

The oil theft gangs have also found more sophisticated ways to siphon off fuel. Whereas boreholes were once crudely made and the gasoline carried away by hand, authorities are now seeing gaping holes that allow for the gasoline to be pumped out with small high-pressure hoses up to 500 meters long. In June, two men were arrested in Cartago driving a truck packed with 16 tanks, each of which had been filled with 1,000 liters of gasoline stolen from RECOPE pipelines, according to CRHoy.

Costa Rica’s intelligence agency (Dirección de Inteligencia y Seguridad – DIS) found that experts needed to perform taps are paid up to 3 million colons (about $5,000).

InSight Crime Analysis

The rapid scaling up of fuel theft reveals how Costa Rica’s gangs have seized on the quick and relatively risk-free criminal economy as a way to finance their expanding operations.

This has triggered a response from RECOPE, which has spent over $850,000 on security upgrades between the past year and doubled the number of guards patrolling its pipelines.

So far, the police response has largely been ineffective, most often resulting in just the capture of young men who carry out the thefts.

SEE ALSO: Coverage of Oil Theft

And while oil theft has been increasing, it may not be high atop authorities’ list of priorities. Costa Rica has seen a spike in violence, drug trafficking and human smuggling in 2019.

Other countries in the region have also seen crime groups exploit the lucrative oil theft trade. In January of 2019, the state-run oil firm in Mexico estimated that more than $7 billion worth of fuel had been stolen since 2016. In Honduras, some 50,000 liters of stolen fuel were seized during a February 2019 operation.

Compartir icon icon icon

What are your thoughts? Click here to send InSight Crime your comments.

We encourage readers to copy and distribute our work for non-commercial purposes, with attribution to InSight Crime in the byline and links to the original at both the top and bottom of the article. Check the Creative Commons website for more details of how to share our work, and please send us an email if you use an article.

Related Content

BARRIO 18 / 21 DEC 2020

Welcome to InSight Crime’s Criminal GameChangers 2020, where we highlight the most important trends in organized crime in the Americas over the course of…

MEXICO / 16 NOV 2012

The latest death of a reporter in Mexico, who was gunned down in broad daylight in the state of…

CONTRABAND / 8 OCT 2019

A group that used homeless people to smuggle cell phones and drugs into Costa Rican prisons is under investigation, the…

About InSight Crime

THE ORGANIZATION

We Have Updated Our Website

4 FEB 2021

Welcome to our new home page. We have revamped the site to create a better display and reader experience.

THE ORGANIZATION

InSight Crime Events – Border Crime: The Northern Triangle and Tri-Border Area

ARGENTINA / 25 JAN 2021

Through several rounds of extensive field investigations, our researchers have analyzed and mapped out the main illicit economies and criminal groups present in 39 border departments spread across the six countries of study – the Northern Triangle trio of Guatemala, Honduras, and El…

BRIEF

InSight Crime’s ‘Memo Fantasma’ Investigation Wins Simón Bolívar National Journalism Prize

COLOMBIA / 20 NOV 2020

The staff at InSight Crime was awarded the prestigious Simón Bolívar national journalism prize in Colombia for its two-year investigation into the drug trafficker known as “Memo Fantasma,” which was…

ANALYSIS

InSight Crime – From Uncovering Organized Crime to Finding What Works

COLOMBIA / 12 NOV 2020

This project began 10 years ago as an effort to address a problem: the lack of daily coverage, investigative stories and analysis of organized crime in the Americas. …

ANALYSIS

InSight Crime – Ten Years of Investigating Organized Crime in the Americas

FEATURED / 2 NOV 2020

In early 2009, Steven Dudley was in Medellín, Colombia. His assignment: speak to a jailed paramilitary leader in the Itagui prison, just south of the city. Following his interview inside…